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Barnes told to sue Irish boxing chiefs over Olympic shambles

By Declan Bogue

Published 20/08/2016

Paddy Barnes
Paddy Barnes
Speaking out: Peter Taylor believes Ireland’s boxers were over-trained

The father of Olympic 2012 gold medal boxer Katie Taylor has launched a stinging attack on what he describes as the “shambles” of Irish Amateur Boxing, laying into the tactics and preparations of the eight-strong team in Rio.

Peter, who also used to train Katie — the Bray woman was defeated in the quarter-finals in Rio — believes that Belfast boxer Paddy Barnes is entitled to sue the Association, stating that it failed in its duty of care towards him as he dropped nine kilos to make the 49 kilo weight ahead of his shock first-round defeat.

“In my view, Paddy almost has a case to sue the Association,” said Taylor. “He’s an employee of theirs, it’s their responsibility to protect him. It’s not just about winning medals, it’s about a boxer’s health. That should be the first consideration every time.”

He explained his rationale, continuing: “With all the structures around him, all the doctors and sports scientists, Paddy went up to 58 kilos. At that, his body fat must have been 9-10%. Why didn’t somebody say to him, ‘Paddy when you’re 49 kilos, your body fat should be only 2-3%? You might make the weight, but you can’t perform at that!’”

Dubliner Taylor, who was part of the successful Irish coaching team at London 2012, also expressed concerns about Barnes’ long-term health, having pushed himself to drop such an amount. 

Taylor warned: “When Paddy retires, he has a chance of facing osteoporosis and other issues from trying to make an unnatural weight. Then they ask why he’s not performing.”

Taylor continued: "Paddy is a warrior who, in my view, put his life on the line for Ireland in Rio. Even at 49 kilos, when he was wrecked, he still threw more punches than his opponent. If he'd been given the right tactics, he'd have won that fight by controlling the distance and the tempo.

"But a decision about his weight should have been made after London. He's getting older, the weight is getting harder to make. You've just got to make these decisions, even if the boxer himself objects to it. At the end of the day, what is your priority? Medals or the boxer's wellbeing?

"How can you lose nearly a sixth of your body weight and expect to function properly? You can't do it. It's insane.

"Imagine the pressure on Paddy going to Rio, thinking that he'd probably lose his funding if he didn't come back with another medal. A double Olympic medallist, who has a child at home. Ridiculous."

Taylor watched from afar, despairing that the High Performance culture he helped create alongside fellow departed coach Billy Walsh fell apart at the seams in Rio.

While some of the frustration over the poor performance of Ireland's boxers has been directed at refereeing decisions, Taylor believes the focus should concentrate on the culture of preparation, although he was loathe to single out head coach Zaur Antia for criticism.

While he agrees that the judging in Rio was awful, to fixate on that story would be to largely miss the truth of this Olympics for Ireland's boxers.

Of his own daughter, Taylor said: "I thought Katie looked frail compared to how she usually looks. But every one of them looked over-trained.

"Again, you could see the tactics were absolutely terrible. No matter what the scoring is, boxing is boxing. You hit them, they don't hit you. I mean, tactics won Katie the Olympic final in London, that's absolutely certain. But you can't control what the judges are doing, so you have just got to fight your own fight."

He is critical, too, of the fact that all three High Performance coaches - Antia, John Conlan and Eddie Bolger - travelled to Rio with the seven male boxers, leaving his daughter Katie behind as the female tournament didn't get under way until a full week later.

"No one stayed behind with Katie to help with the preparations," he revealed.

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